The Audubon Connecticut Environmental Leadership Awards Benefit is held each Spring to honor an individual or group of individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and commitment to the conservation of birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. It is an honor to recognize the following 2017 honorees.

Audubon Connecticut Environmental Leadership Award

GINA MCCARTHY is a national environmental leader who served most recently as the 13th Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As Administrator, she played a major role in the negotiation of a global agreement on climate protection and enhanced the agency’s programs across a wide range of environmental and human health concerns.

From 2004 to 2009, Gina served as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, during which time she led important a through the establishment of Connecticut’s “No Child Left Inside” program. Previously, she served as a senior agency official working on clean air issues for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Katie O’Brien Lifetime Achievement Award

MELISSA GROO is a wildlife photographer, writer, and conservationist with a passion for educating people about the marvels of the natural world. She believes that photography can be both fine art and a powerful vehicle for storytelling, and considers herself a “wildlife biographer” as much as a wildlife photographer. It is her hope that her images will help raise awareness about not only the extrinsic beauty of animals, but also their intrinsic worth.

Melissa is a contributing editor to Audubon magazine and the columnist on wildlife photography for Outdoor Photographer magazine. She is a consultant and writer on issues of ethics in photography and is Chair of the North American Nature Photography Association’s Ethics Committee. She created Audubon’s Guide for Ethical Bird Photography with Kenn Kaufman, and she’s advised National Wildlife Magazine and NANPA, as well as the National Audubon Society, on guidelines for ethical photography. She is also a judge for the National Audubon Society and the BigPicture Natural World photo contests.

Audubon Connecticut Corporate Award

LESLEY & BILL KING of Back 40 Farm Group have been together since high school but never envisioned owning a farm or a restaurant. After long careers on Wall Street, they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the organic food movement and the local food scene, beginning with the development of an organic farm in Washington, Connecticut called the Back 40 Farm and moving quickly to the co-founding of the Old Greenwich Farmer’s Market.

Their mutual commitment to chemical-free food for their families and their community, along with a whole lot of entrepreneurial spirit, helped carve the way for the Back 40 Farm Group, which now co-owns the Back 40 Kitchen on Greenwich Avenue, Mill Street Bar & Table in Byram, and a country store called the Back 40 Mercantile in Old Greenwich. Bill serves on the board of both the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture and the Greenwich Land Trust. Bill and Lesley are strong supporters of the local and organic food movement and have a passion for the health of our environment.

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